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The Light Of Other Days
Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Tor Books, 316 pages

The Light Of Other Days
Arthur C. Clarke
Born in 1917 in Minehead, Somerset, England, and living in Sri Lanka since 1956, Arthur C. Clarke is best known for his 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), based on his short story "Sentinel of Eternity." His Against the Fall of Night (1948) and Childhood's End (1953) are also among his best titles. Clarke was voted Grand Master at the 1986 Nebula Awards. His short story "The Star" (1955) won him a Hugo award, as did the movie adaptation of 2001. A writer of hard SF, though not without some elements of mysticism, Clarke has also written a large volume of science-popularizing non-fiction for which he has won UNESCO's Kalinga Prize (1962) and a non-fiction International Fantasy Award in 1972 (for The Exploration of Space). Clarke has also received many honours from the scientific community, in particular for his work in the development of today's geosynchronous communication satellites.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Profiles of the Future
SF Site Review: Arthur C. Clarke & Lord Dunsany: A Correspondence
Arthur C. Clarke Tribute Site

Stephen Baxter
Stephen Baxter was born in 1957 and was raised in Liverpool. He studied mathematics at Cambridge and received a PhD from Southampton. He has worked in information technology and now lives in Buckinghamshire, England. His first story, "The Xeelee Flower," was published in Interzone 19.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Longtusk
SF Site Review: Vacuum Diagrams
SF Site Review: Titan
Stephen Baxter Interview
Book Review: Ring
Book Review: Flux
Stephen Baxter Tribute Site
Stephen Baxter Interview

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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"The Light of Other Days" was the title of a classic short story by Bob Shaw, one of the lesser known stars of science fiction. One of science fiction's biggest stars, Arthur C. Clarke, and one of its rising talents, Stephen Baxter, have combined forces to pay tribute to Shaw with their collaborative novel of the same title. One of the features of the Shaw story was the idea of "slow glass," which would transmit light so slowly that it could be used to view the past. The comparative device in the Clarke & Baxter novel is wormhole technology.

Hiram Patterson, a latter-day Ted Turner/Bill Gates, has found a use for wormholes to broadcast news as it happens from remote locations without the time and expense of transporting a live reporter and camera crew.

He can create a temporary wormhole, point a camera through it, and capture the images from a home office, no matter where it is located. Patterson's development team, headed by his son, David, continues to push the boundaries of this new technology while Clarke and Baxter begin to examine its social aspects.

The spread of wormhole technology seems to be based on the internet. Like the internet, it spreads rapidly and reasonably inexpensively. There can be no interaction between the viewer and the subject of their spying. Most importantly, it completely alters the fabric of society and brings the world even closer together.

The changes to society are continuous, especially since what can be done with wormhole technology and its cost keeps changing. Used to spy on individuals, particularly once the ability to look into the past is discovered, wormhole technology supplants the internet as the primary time-waster.

People can now not only discover what their neighbours are doing at the moment, they can also see what their neighbours were doing at any time. Privacy has ceased to exist as anyone can spy on anyone else, at any time, without any chance of detection.

Although there are some noble endeavours, such as the project to completely document the life of the historical Jesus, most people use the technology for more voyeuristic concerns. Given the attitude Clarke exhibited towards organized religion in such recent novels as 3001: The Final Odyssey, the irreverence paid to religion in The Light of Other Days is very understated.

The Light of Other Days is definitely a novel of ideas. In addition to the primary concept of the wormhole, the story opens with the announcement of the discovery of an enormous asteroid, called the Wormwood, which will impact the earth in 2534, causing the destruction of all life on the planet. The knowledge of the Wormwood inflicts much of humanity with a sense of malaise, adding to the public's need for a diversion like wormhole technology. The authors have also inflicted water shortages on the world which have resulted in several water wars. Many countries have become balkanized and, perhaps the least likely situation, England has become the 52nd state of the US.

With many interesting ideas, few of which are fully explored, and a dearth of exploration of the characters and their relationships, The Light of Other Days feels more like a work in progress than a finished novel. If the authors wanted to pay homage to Bob Shaw, producing a more complete work may have been the way to do it.

Copyright © 2000 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver in one of SF Site's Contributing Editors as well as one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He is Vice-Chairman of Windycon 28 and Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. Steven is a Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer. He lives in Illinois with his wife, daughter and 4000 books.


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